DENVER — A settlement with Walmart involving the opioid addiction crisis has resulted in the company providing $3.1 billion nationwide, with more than $40 million for Colorado.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a Tuesday morning press release that the settlement resolves claims that Walmart contributed to the crisis by "failing to appropriately oversee the dispensing of opioids at its stores."
The $3.1 billion must be used to provide treatment and recovery services to those struggling with opioid use disorder.
The settlement also includes improvements to how Walmart's pharmacies handle opioids, including ways to prevent fraudulent prescriptions and flag suspicious prescriptions, Weiser said.
This announcement follows similar proposals on Nov. 2 from the two largest U.S. pharmacy chains, CVS Health and Walgreens, which each said they would pay about $5 billion, according to the Associated Press.
“We are continuing to hold accountable the companies that created and fueled the opioid crisis, which has devastated communities and harmed Coloradans throughout the state," Weiser said. "As a result of our efforts, Walmart is committing to provide meaningful resources that will help people suffering from opioid addiction get the treatment and recovery services they need, and to change the way it operates so that this never happens again. This agreement with Walmart adds to the important progress we've already achieved through our settlements with the opioid manufacturers and distributors, and there is more work to do."
Both Walmart and the attorneys general that led negotiations for multiple states — North Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Texas — and attorneys representing local governments have agreed to the settlement. Weiser said they are all optimistic that it will gain the support it needs from 43 states by the end of the year.
Walmart said in a statement that it “strongly disputes" allegations in lawsuits from state and local governments that its pharmacies improperly filled prescriptions for the powerful prescription painkillers, according to the Associated Press. The company does not admit liability with the settlement, which would represent about 2% of its quarterly revenue.
“Walmart believes the settlement framework is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date,” the company said in a statement.
In November 2021, a federal jury said that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies didn't do enough to stop the flow of opioid pills into two Ohio counties, setting the tone for U.S. city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis.
According to the settlement plan with CVS, state and local governments would receive $4.9 billion from the company. It would also pay about $130 million over the next decade to Native American tribes, according to the Associated Press.
Opioids of all kinds have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.